Poetry Porch: Poetry

A Provençal day
by Eric Chiles

At the foot of the Alpilles on a brisk October day
we visit Glanum’s triumphal arch where you can see
that Rome considered the defeated Gauls their slaves,
hands tied behind their backs. They wouldn’t be free
for almost three centuries, doing the empire’s work
— now just these tumbled ruins — without rest.

Down the road, Van Gogh found a place to rest
while struggling with his demons night and day.
Yet at Saint Paul he continued to paint and work
to capture The Irises and wheat fields, so we’d see
the beauty in the world around us and be free
of the torment that would keep him a slave.

Has St. Remy become tourism’s slave?
We see Nostradamus’ birth place before rest-
rooms. Despite puzzling prophesies, he stayed free
of the Inquisition — the cardinals of his day
more worried about Copernicus and Galileo see-
ing a more precise vision of God’s handiwork.

Then our tour guide gives us time to work
on the gift list — kids and grandkids — that enslaves
us; they must get a sense of all that we’ve seen.
Even on a European vacation there’s no rest
from getting everyone something for the holidays.
I hope the wine and chocolates are duty free.

With the lavender soap wrapped, we’re free
to meander the narrow streets. We’ve worked
up an appetite, and it’s almost midi.
A cheese shop’s mimolette makes me slaver.
A baguette, a warm sip, a place to rest?
There’s a small cafe where we can see

where we’ve been and what’s left to see.
We sit outside in the sun feeling almost free
of worry and begin to embrace all the rest.
It’s a gift to see history, how the world works,
hear the music of another tongue though a slave
to only one. Perhaps that will change some day.

See, cafe au lait, a baguette and mimolette work
a spell freeing us — briefly — from time’s slavery,
and we sit and rest, absorbing a Provençal day.

Copyright © 2018 by Eric Chiles.